Listen! The Recreational Entertainment

Franklyn de Gashe – a walk in the park

Recreational EntertainmentHe’s a time-travelling, serial-killing poet and gentleman. In this charming tale of elephantine-auto-mobile development he finds himself in need of a tonic. A gentle stroll through the parklands of London will surely suffice to relax the skull after a night of severe indulgence.

A wondrous expanse of baise green beneath the smoggy sky. My mount picked up speed as it relished the grass between its skeletal toes. With my peasant-beating spear I directed my chair towards a certain copse in whose leafy shade I was confident of finding gentlemanly diversion.

The rest of the story is here and you can listen to it below at either Soundcloud or Reverbnation, as the fancy takes you.


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The Desert Crystals – Part 22: Dead Air

desert crystals2Part 22 – Dead Air

A thin envelope emerged nudgingly through the rough gap between floor and door. When all but a corner had been poked through a final flick of propulsion sent it skidding across the room. The envelope spun full-length twice before grinding to a regretful halt at the foot of a thick table leg. Seen from above it seemed glumly erect, like a disappointed pennant half-heartedly enthusing for its cause. As a flag it had but a field of beige to excite and draw the eye, with no rampant ducks or blazed escutcheons to inform or inflame the viewer. The lacklustre impression was further reinforced by the handwriting that sloped unevenly across its obverse until a long streak of rainwater slurred the final letters across its face. The surviving scrawl spelled out simply “For Your At”.

Notes of similar ilk passed beneath the door several times a day, so its presence hardly tweaked a brow on the face of either the man or woman who sat on opposite sides of the desk whose leg the note had brushed. The desk top was a wasted no man’s land: pencils lay chewed, snapped and brutally over-sharpened; note pads held little but angry doodles, crossed out names and savage crumplings; angle-poise lamps tilted at each other with aggressive cants, their cones of light fighting for dominance. At either edge, propped alternately on elbows or fists crouched the combatants. They were intent on ignoring each other, to the exclusion of successfully undertaking any other activity.

The stalemate had lasted all morning, and as the sun rolled over its peak the pair were regretting their earlier words – it was already past the time of day when they would usually slope off to the Decorated Elbow and seek inspiration in a pint. The routines of the editors of The Journals Biologinary had been established many years ago, irrespective of which humans occupied the roles. Such traditions were one of many reasons why the Journals had attained such notoriety and respect. Along with their reliably exciting stories and spiky editorials the lifestyles of the Journals’ staff were erratic and newsworthy in their own right (though never commented upon within the periodical’s pages). Frankly it is difficult to maintain a glower when one has any regard whatsoever for the retaining youthful beauty in one’s features.

In as conciliatory manner as can be achieved Estfel Trabine teased a paperclip loose from a clutch of photographs, folded it between his fingers and flicked it across the table. The paperclip bounced off his colleague’s forehead and skittered back across the desk, coming to rest on the image of a Stolen Werebeetle. Melee Galabrendle raised her eyes to meet his.

“That felt something like an apology Estfel.”

“Well, let’s not go too far. Call it an invitation instead.”

“How kind. Your generosity overflows like bathwater.”

Estfel’s façade almost cracked as he replied, “and the warmth of your smile would ignite a poor man’s candle.”

“What manner of invitation to soothe a wounded colleague?”

“Why, our coats await only our exit from this place of frustration…”

“It’s too late for the Elbow, we’ll never get our table now.”

“You’re right, as is so often the case dear Melee. Perhaps a compromise?”

“I’m always open to reason,” Melee was unable to resist adding with a smirk, “and it is delightful to hear your principles snapping like nutbirds’ wings in the wind.”

Estfel’s attempt to maintain his serious demeanour quivered as he replied, “your openness is one of your finer characteristics, certainly counteracting your vile temper.”

“We’re drinking your special reserve then?” Melee drew back from the desk, stretching and rubbing her elbows.

“I suppose that’s fair,” Estfel said equably.

He pulled open the lower drawer on his side of the desk (thoroughly concealing the letter that sought to intrude upon them) and with a clinking rattle of glassware produced a squat bottle two thirds full of slowly sloshing liquor. On Melee’s side, a middle draw provided two mismatched tumblers: one square and thick, the delicate with the tentacles of an Elming Squid etched around its bulbous bowl shape. She carelessly laid them on the desk top and awaited the bottle’s uncorking.

As is traditional with Quaverscant whiskey Estfel allowed the bottle’s contents to cease its swishing progress and only poured it when it had returned to a calmness. Estfel gently tilted the bottle and encouraged the syrupy spirit to creep towards the lip with rhythmic stroking of the opposite side of its neck. A hideously dangerous brew, Quaverscant whiskey was violently explosive when moved suddenly while in contact with air. The ritual that emerged to govern safe drinking was clearly marked on the bottle’s label and rigorously adhered to by any person with a vestige of intelligence, or sobriety. Melee and Estfel admired the way it rolled into their glasses, its chocolate deep colour topped with a glimmering gold meniscus that hugged the edges of the tumblers.

They left it a moment longer to steady itself in the glasses while Estfel recorked the bottle and replaced it in his drawer. They raised their glasses gingerly, mock-mimed clinking them together and took a deep swallow of their sluggish drinks.

“Well,” began Melee, as she savoured the sensation of the Quaverscant sliding down her throat, like a long slow kiss (as the bottle promised) or a tentacle’s suction cups melting inside your mouth (as other fans described it).

“On reflection, it was perhaps hasty to dismiss the notion of a feature on the common beasts of the Allwright Marshes,” Estfel offered, idly watching the spirit in his glass attempt to climb up the vertical sides.

“That was my feeling too,” Melee agreed, “if you recall.”

“Very well, an apology is undoubtedly due. First though, we ought really to finish this delicious drink, which as you’re very well aware is my last bottle.”

“I would not wish to waste it. To your good health and a return to editorial sense.” Melee inclined her glass subtly towards him and finished the drink.

“Do you know Melee, it may be too late for the Elbow, but it’s almost opening time for the Stout Apothecary – perhaps an early dinner..?”

Melee roused herself with a shake of the head and a nod.

“Alright, but all the drinks are on you.”

Estfel chivalrously grumbled his agreement and, without glancing at the rather sad little envelope that had hoped to intrude on their day, left the office with Melee’s elbow poking him in the ribs.

Next Week: Part 23 – Vanishing Distance

In the same series:

The Desert Crystals – Part 21: Nascent Horrors (
The Desert Crystals – Part 20: Eye in the Sky (
The Desert Crystals – Part 19: Newly Bespectacled (
The Desert Crystals – Part 18: Cut and Dried (
The Desert Crystals – Part 17: Stolen in the Breeze (
The Desert Crystals – Part 16: Look But Don’t Touch (
The Desert Crystals – Part 15: Blood’s The Thing (
The Desert Crystals – Part 14: A Timely Intervention (
The Desert Crystals – Part 13: A Chamber of Horrors (
The Desert Crystals: part 1 (

Stuff in the Post: Skinner Co Pendant!

Look What I Got In The Post!

I like getting post, as long as it isn’t just bills and statements: they mostly go straight in the shredder. Sometimes I even open them first. It’s also the joyous season of the catalogue so we’re getting some quality gazing-at-tat time too. Today I got a lovely scuffed envelope from far off Canadia. With no explanation or note I found it held a magical pendant with a mystical symbol. It called to me from beyond the envelope of time and our universe; a voice without crooning to me in my mind; the metallic weight in my palm drawing me down into the unbridled madness of occult lore…

SkinnerCo Pendant_SM

The Magic Of Flash Pulp

It is of course the dashing new logo for Skinner Co, that unfeasibly prolific, dynamic and creative force operating from the dark heart of Canada. Between Jessica May, Opoponax and JRD Skinner they produce the only podcast in which I listen to every episode – Flash Pulp. There they present tales of pulp fiction – mystery, crime, zombie horror and more, all weaving into one complex tale that’s now over 340 episodes long!

If you haven’t indulged in their realm of wonder you’re a fool, or simply didn’t know about it, in which case you’re a fool for not sensing it psychically through the void. Can you not hear their whispers?

They have also spawned a delightful network of fans and associates, The Flash Mob. I’ve been very happy to contribute to the weekly FlashCasts with the odd story or two. I’ve been away for a little while with too much work and improv business and I’m gagging to get back in with the mob.

This was a lovely reminder that I’m still in the Mob! Thank you guys!

Things you should go to now:

Even Merly is faintly interested in my post:

Merly Cuddle Bundle_SM

My Uncle is Missing in Scotland

Update: my uncle was found on Sunday, but sadly not alive –

I realise that might sounds a bit like a joke title, but it really isn’t. I feel fucking horrible. I can hardly keep breathing properly. I discovered recently that I’m not particularly good at breathing anyway… apparently you’re supposed to keep doing it, but I’ve found that I hold my breath almost all the time. It’s an excellent way of increasing tension in the upper body and shoulders. That’s a good thing, right? Ah. Well, that would explain the chest pains and day long headaches then.


Why so tense? It’s not me, it’s my uncle. He’s missing. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a missing family member; I think this is my first. Just under two weeks ago he went hill walking in the West Highlands of Scotland, from near Fort William. It’s basically wilderness up there, and huge and empty. We haven’t seen or heard anything of him since a nice landscape shot on 22nd September on Tinto Hill. Him not being in touch isn’t unusual. Colin’s a private guy and has long travelled alone, all around the world. We’ve got postcodes from Australia, the Middle East, even the actual Timbuctoo. But  he hasn’t come back from Scotland.

He’s almost always at our improv comedy shows at The Glee Club in Nottingham on the last Friday of the month (the 27th in this case) but he was a no show. My friend Rupes left a message on his Facebook wall asking if he was coming, since he’d bought a ticket, but didn’t hear anything. Not surprising, Colin’s an occasional Facebook user at most. I’d planned to send him a message after the show, but my phone had worn itself out and the weekend wiped the thought from my mind. He probably wouldn’t have replied anyway – I reckon I get about one reply in every three text messages! Plus I’d vaguely remembered he was on holiday and might not be back, so it didn’t really seem significant.

It was only the following Wednesday when I got a call from my Mum to ask if he’d been there on Friday that it took an awful cold breath inside me. He hadn’t turned up for work (exceptionally strange) and his employers at Rolls-Royce had become concerned and contacted his sister. It all rather snowballed from there – my brother in law confirmed that Colin’s car isn’t in his drive in Derby. Now Mum’s in Scotland and mountain rescue are out with dogs and police to try and find his car.
Lots of friends and family, and friends of Colin have been in touch to either share a picture and information out into the extended social network in hopes that someone, somewhere remembers seeing him. There’s an item up on the BBC website now, and I really don’t know how I feel about that. Is it a good thing when a missing person has to be shared at that level?

Hopefully it means more people will see it and someone will have seen Colin.

Missing Derby man Colin Barnfather may be in Highlands

Colin Barnfather had planned to go walking in the Kinloch Hourn area

Police have appealed for help to trace a missing man from Derby who is thought to have gone missing while walking in the West Highlands.

It is believed Colin Barnfather, 54, travelled to Lochaber in late September with the intention of going hillwalking and camping.

It is thought he planned to walk the Kinloch Hourn area.

Mr Barnfather is 5ft 8in tall, of medium build, with short, grey hair. He had a green, single person tent.
He is thought to have been wearing outdoor clothing and drives a blue Honda car.

Police are particularly keen to hear from anyone recently walking in the area who may have seen or spoken to Mr Barnfather, or seen his car in an area favoured by hillwalkers.

It’s not a great picture of him, but that seems strangely traditional for news media. He’s an incredibly competent and resourceful person, hardy, well-organised and vastly fitter than most people half his age.

He’s the only uncle I’ve got and I’d rather like him back. There’s very little I can do except fret and watch the phone in hopes of it beaming in good news. We haven’t had much of that yet, but they do say no news is good news. That sounds like one of those platitudes I particularly despise but it seems to encapsulate the helpless flailing quite well.

Please do share the news article and picture, especially if you know people in the area, or who might have been there recently. Much appreciated.

Thanks for Everything, But He’s Gone

Colin Barnfather_2The Agony of Waiting for Bad News

The last four days have been unique in my experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never had a relative go missing. And then my uncle, Colin Barnfather went missing up in the Scottish Highlands. He’s been found, but he’s not coming back.

My Mum and her husband have been up there for the last few days with the Fort William police and the Mountain Rescue teams, scouring the huge and beautiful wilderness. They found him today. It seems he fell from a ridge and likely died on impact. That was at least five days ago, so he’s been dead since before we thought he was missing.

And what have I been doing in this time? There was almost nothing I could do. The most useful thing I’ve done is share a picture and some words. I guess that’s a lot more than we could have done fifteen years ago. I’m very grateful to all our friends, family (and complete strangers) who have passed on his details through this vast extended network we now have. Lots of people have also sent their best wishes, which is very touching.

I only had one uncle, and he was an enigmatic, funny, interesting guy. I find it hard to say at what point he became a major feature in my life. He’s a quiet man, with a ridiculous loud laugh that always instantly pinpointed his location in a room for me.

When I was much younger, probably as far back as I can remember, Colin was a quiet smiling dark presence and a moustache. Ah the moustache! He was probably the first person I’d seen or knew who had a moustache. I do recall being fascinated and possibly slightly scared of it. In my memory he seems so tall, but in fact he ended up being somewhat shorter than me. My god but he stood up straight. I don’t think I’ve known many people who were fitter, despite being twenty years older than me I was frequently shamed by our relative fitness. But then I do have twenty years to catch up and get fit (this is not going to happen).

I don’t think he really knew what to do with us when we were very little (my brother, sister and I), other than be there at family occasions, smile and sometimes be slightly gruff. I find myself the same with my nieces. In very many ways Colin is the family member I considered myself to be most like: I don’t look a lot like my Dad or my Mum, or very much like Colin for that matter. But we both have rather nice eyebrows – and a moustache. So that made sense. He often seemed a quiet, introverted person, which was certainly something I could associate with in my teens.

What drew us together I think, was fantasy and SF. He got me onto the Discworld novels. By then I was already well saturated in SF, but Pratchett shifted the relationship to one of ritual and tradition. For years I’d get the next hardback Discworld novel for birthday or Christmas (not always from Col), and if not that then some other relentlessly awesome SF or fantasy. Eventually I was able to take great pleasure in returning the favour, seeking out newer, weirder and sometimes better SF and fantasy for both Colin and my Mum. It became one of those things we talked about. SF does seem to run down both sides of our family, which is an immensely satisfying legacy to drown the generation in.

I’m not certain when our relationship shifted beyond that of biannual gift giving. I think it must have been around when my Nanna died, leaving Colin and my Mum alone. I don’t think either of them ever really got over that.

I just had a flashback to being at Nanna’s house when she lived on Lawn Avenue in Allestree. I was fascinated by the room that Colin used to have there – I should mention that our family are terrifying hoarders, I mean really awful at throwing things away (it’s possible that my siblings have partially evaded this curse / gift) – and his old room still had intriguing things like a globe of the moon and odd little cars and a duvet that felt enormous.

Anyway, it must have been around then that we found a certain kinship in humour and attitude to life. That is to say, somewhat cynical, often sarcastic (and often hugely unpopular). I think that’s why both Marilyn and I got on with Colin so well – we made each other laugh. We also seemed to naturally slide into the pen for the darker sheep of the family side (which I was happy to take from my brother, once he turned all respectable). For reasons that were unclear to any of us, people felt they should just leave their kids with us at events. It might have been because we all gravitated towards the toys and colouring pencils, but a trio of people less likely to look after your kids would be hard to find.

He became a much more regular facet of my life when we started doing monthly improv comedy shows in Nottingham. To both of our surprises he was there virtually every month. It is immensely satisfying to make your family laugh, and his distinctive laugh made me laugh too whenever I heard it. It’s also been very personally rewarding to have that support. I hadn’t realised until a few days ago just for how long and how deeply embedded Colin had become in that monthly event – not just for me and Marilyn, but for the rest of the gang. From the chaotic days at the Art Org where we’d do the show and then have to break down the set, with Colin always helping and chatting, to the new days at Glee where we can go straight to the bar and get an hour or so of conversation and socialising. He’s been a proper fixture, and all the messages of support and comments from our mutual friends have been wonderfully uplifting.

Colin and me, doing what we did most of the time that we were together.
Colin and me, doing what we did most of the time that we were together.

At times I worried that he was lonely – he was a single man living on his own (with heaps of stuff), and it sounded like a lonely life. Except it wasn’t – there wasn’t just us looking forwards to seeing him, there was everybody else he saw at work and in his insane fitness regime. It’s sad, but these past few days have put me in touch with so many people who loved Col just as much as I did and saw him even more often. I’m delighted (entirely the wrong word, but I don’t know what to use instead) to find that he affected so many people, made so many people happy with his cheerful, determined personality, that he was loved so widely for being exactly the person I loved.

There are a great many people who will miss my uncle. I will miss Colin. He was like the big brother I never had. Thanks Colin, for being yourself – that’s I liked about you. That has always been inspirational to me – you can fit in without giving up anything you hold dear; something worth knowing.

While I’m sad that he died alone, far away from everyone it is exactly the sort of place he loved – alone, far away from everyone. So it’s hard for me to feel too bad about his dying there. If he could have chosen to, he would have come back, so that he could go out and off on his own another time. In this case, he couldn’t choose otherwise and I feel as if he would have accepted that, in his fall and known it was a beautiful place to die.

The place where they recovered Colin's body yesterday.
The place where they recovered Colin’s body yesterday.

For Others 

That said… if you are going to go out walking alone, or even with others – leave a note. Tell people where you’re going. I’m so grateful to the people who helped to find my uncle, from the Fort William police to the Lochhaber Mountain Rescue team who recovered his body, to the RAF and navy helicopter crews who dropped teams in the wild. Finding Colin a few days earlier wouldn’t have made any difference, but it might to someone else.

This week, Tuesday 8th October 2013

Is This Week Really Not Over Yet?

It already feels like weeks since we found out that Colin had gone missing; in fact it’s only been five days. That compression and expansion of time is fascinating. I don’t know if it makes things better or worse – it’s just something that we as humans do. Our impressions of the time that we spend with other people also concertinas dramatically, seeming at once infinite and yet vanishingly too little. It’s been an emotional few days, and will continue to be so as we work towards a funeral and the inevitable nightmare / bizarre bazaar of sorting out Colin’s worldly goods.
♥ This week’s scribbles

Monday Thanks for Everything, But He’s Gone A few thoughts about my uncle, who was found on Sunday.

Wednesday Book Review: Feast and Famine by Adrian Tchaikovsky A fabulous book of short stories.

Thursday Shankchism: The Gash of Angry Poetry Just a few enraged poems from a calm mind.

Friday The Desert Crystals – Part 23 “Vanishing Distance” It can be hard to get perspective high above the clouds.

Updates on my thrilling life


Not a complete failure last week, mainly because I made few plans and did most of my writing before everything kicked off on Thursday, except for my book review, which I have finally written and will share on Tuesday. Last week’s Desert Crystals was one of the hardest instalments to write, but I’m not sure why. I like adding new characters, especially ones who bicker, which is sort of how I perceive my own relationship with many friends. I don’t know where the story will go next; it’s like improv, I just have to remember what’s already happened and the next step will seem inevitable.

Once we’d found out about Colin I knew I’d need to write about him. I’m a heart of stone kinda guy for actually showing emotions, and for me writing is how I express my feelings. Writing on Sunday night did relieve some of the awesome tension I’d managed to build up in my chest, shoulders and neck, especially when WordPress lost my first draft… anger is an emotion, right? I feel much better for having been able to quickly capture my feelings and memories at the time. I’m painfully aware of how hard it is to genuinely recall such states later. It felt important that I created that memory file.

Last week’s scribbles

Wednesday Listen! The Recreational Entertainment An audio tale for your ear-y pleasure – one of Franklyn de Gashe’s lighter yarns.

Friday The Desert Crystals – Part 22 “Dead Air” New faces in the story, from the offices of the Journals Biologinary

Saturday Stuff in the Post: Skinner Co Pendant! My good friends over at Flash Pulp sent me a present.


I finally constructed my last birthday Lego gift – a terrifying Lego Atlantis scorpion-crab thing! An excellent build but scary as all hell.

Improv Comedy

Sadly little activity last week. Our boy Martin is runeing in Norway so we skipped Fisticuffs last week. I also missed the jam because I had to test some software implementation (don’t ask, the pistol is virtually under my chin already). It’s especially galling because Ben was running the jam on soundscapes and The Bat. I’ll catch it up another time.

This week we have much improv: Monday night is the start of the MissImp improv beginners course that Parky and I are running. I may not be terribly focussed, but I’m looking forwards to both the distraction and teaching improv to some newish humans.

On Thursday it’s Gorilla Burger once more. I may be taking a bit of a back seat, depending on how the week shapes up. But I’ll certainly be there, in body with beer.


A good book week. Books are an excellent distraction and since the first half of the week was deliberately quiet I actually got some reading done! I started and finished Derek Landy‘s Skulduggery Pleasant – Death Bringer. I’m reading them horribly out of order, but it doesn’t seem too problematic. I wish (again) that they’d number the fucking things clearly. And… breathe… It’s a great supernatural detective series (for teenagers I suppose) which is funny, violent and touching, with especially marvellous characters – the eponymous Skulduggery is a dead man who brought his own skeleton back to life and has now acquired awesome sidekick Valkyrie Cain. They have a pleasing relationship and are both quite mad.

I’ve also read Transformers More Than Meets The Eye volume 4 which is maintaining a high quality comic with loopy and detailed adventures. If you’re not into Transformers then you’ll hate it, but as a lifelong fan I’m delighted with the reincorporation of characters and events and the massive expansion of the narrative. It’s also funny, which is especially cool. Comixology makes me happy.

I’m now getting deep into Makers by Cory Doctorow. You can download it for free from that site as Doctorow has a a seriously fuck-you attitude toward ebook publishing copyright. I’ve got it in paperback, and now I’ve got a back up for when I’m on the move. It’s a delight – a fast paced vision of how the world could be if we just let people make stuff.

Events and Excitement

On Saturday I’m compering a belly dancing night! I’m not certain how I’m getting there, or more to the point- getting back as it’s out in the sticks:

Mehira’s Jewels Hafla with The Baladi Blues Ensemble

Hilton Village Hall, Peacroft Lane, Hilton Derbys, DE65 5GH.

7pm- 11.30pm

Thursday 10th October 2013

Gorilla Burger: improv comedy carnage

Gorilla Burger2_SQ_SM

Jam show – a chance for anyone to get on stage, plus special show slots!

The City Gallery
14a Long Row
(off Market Square)
7.30pm – £4

Friday 25th October 2013

MissImp in Action – live improv comedy show


Thrilling all-action end of the month show sporting the best of MissImp inventing scenes and playing games.

The Glee Club
The Waterfront
Canal Street
8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4.50 in advance/£6 on the door (£3 students/MissImp)

Book Review: Feast and Famine – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Because life goes on, and this is a book that Colin would have enjoyed.

Beyond the Shadows of the Apt

Feast and famineThis is the sixth ‘Imaginings’ collection of short stories, I haven’t read the others although I’ve heard of most of the authors. This one jumped into my attention because it’s by the author of one of my favourite series, The Shadows of The Apt. These are proper tomes of epic fantasy which blur into science fiction and something broader than merely fantasy. I’ve been reading them avidly as well as the numerous related short stories Tchaikovsky has made available on his website. Since I’ve only read his exceptional fantasy writings I’d no sense of his range or style when writing about anything else, so acquiring Feast and Famine on Kindle was a joyously impulsive click and download.

It’s a neat collection of ten short stories, some previously published in magazines and others original which span a range of genres, lengths and styles. There’s also a very nice introduction by fellow British author Ian Whates (for whom I keep receiving the second or third books in his series and so haven’t started reading them yet), which gushes in exactly the way you’d expect (and rightly so!) I was delighted to find that Tchaikovsky handles all of his subjects with the same care and gentle wit that he does in his fantasy sequence, granting real characters life in even the shortest story. All the stories made me smile and it’s one of the rare short story collections that I’ve read from cover to cover, normally I find I need a longer tale to get my teeth into, but I quite happily flipped to the next story and consumed them all too quickly.

I’ve got lots of favourites already even from so few tales. Partly it’s because I adore science fiction and it starts with the titular Feast and Famine set in deep space with a rescue mission and intriguing alien life. And that was just the start! There’s time travel, slashes of horror (the rather touching Care) and of course a Shadows of the Apt story which expands on a character who appears all too briefly in the main series. I can’t possibly go through them all – you should read them yourself – but I also loved the Lovecraftian The Dissipation Club and the theatrical The Roar of the Crowd (which is laced with life in amateur dramatics).

Some of them are surprisingly beautiful or laced with a sly humour (Rapture and The God Shark) that made me laugh out loud. Best of all, they are all different and have provided a very pleasing insight into one of our finest writers; I can’t wait to see what comes next since he’s about to finish off the final Shadows of the Apt novel (no!). Ah hell, they’re all really good, and are frequently deeper than the genre they find themselves written in. I suspect that will prove to be Tchaikovsky’s trademark, that whatever genre he chooses to write in will feel richer and more rewarding than it has ever felt before.

Get it here, on Kindle or fancy hardback special edition:

Related articles

Shankchism – The Gash of Angry Poetry

Shankanalia 9Life seems to be brimming with an excess of stresses at present. Partly it’s just so damned busy, which sure is a good thing – it’s nice to have stuff to do, but I do crave those times when we never went out at all and just hid in a cave behind a book, randomly pasting pictures onto things.

Never mind, the primary stresses now are work-related and that’s no surprise since the government in their limited wisdom, selfishness, greed and outright idiocy are tearing apart the organisation I work for. Typically they’re doing it with pitiful planning and forethought. It makes one left not really knowing if there will be a job to be had in six months time. Ho hum.

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for irregular poetic updates.

Shankchism – The Gash of Angry Poetry

The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Full of Fire
Fuck you,
You arrogant thoughtless twat.
Excavate your face with a mashed up phone.
Bright idea?
Fucking twat, we’re well past that.
Keep up…

Balancing Acts
I’m too busy to do that thing that you need
That you’re doing for me
Instead of your work.
Out to lunch
In body and mind.
Oh well I guess fuck all is fine.

Precisely Similar
Like for like.
Except it’s not
Like for like.
Like, it’s like-
But not very like,
Like it was.
Likely, you’ll like it;
I don’t like it, like it is.

Operational Effectiveness
Nothing ever simply works:
Too hard for a working thing
To do what it should.
Like a person:
Useless dead thing.

We All Wear Masks
Your face requires removal
Staple it to my fist,
And hit you
With your own face.
Knuckle lips
And fingernail eyes
Thumb your nose.

I Offer You My Fist, Sir
To punch is much too nice;
To gouge a treat.
Stabbing’s a generosity
You’d don’t deserve.
E’en an evisceration
Scarce matches your execrability.

More of The Same

Colin Barnfather – Condolences and Memorials

image Thank you so much to all the people who have followed the news about Colin Barnfather who went missing in the Scottish Highlands two weeks ago, and the subsequent discovery of his body. Your comments about Colin and messages of support mean the world to us. We are especially thankful to the very many people who shared links about the search and appeals to try and find him.

Funeral and Memorial Services

Colin’s funeral and memorial service will take place on:
Tuesday 22nd October, 11.20 am – 12.20 pm
at Markeaton Crematorium
Markeaton Lane
Derby DE22 4NH

We look forwards to seeing and meeting anyone and everyone who may wish to attend the service and the wake which will follow at a nearby venue (details available at the funeral). If you have a particular wish to actively participate in the service, please contact us through the email address below.

Family flowers only please, but donations to Lochaber Mountain Rescue are most welcome. Details of how to donate can be found below.

Respectful Contributions

A donation page for Colin has been created at (by some wonderful people; thank you very much) where if you wish you can make a donation which will be given to Lochaber Mountain Rescue in recognition of their devotion and professionalism in searching for and recovering Colin’s body. The work they and their colleagues do is challenging, demanding and exceptional.

If you would prefer to donate by text message just send a message to 70070 containing CBRN59 and the amount you wish to donate in a text message to e.g. ‘CBRN59 £5’

It will also be possible to donate in a more traditional manner at the funeral (and the wake) itself.

In Memory

If you would like to send your condolences to our family and other friends of Colin, memories of him, photographs and anecdotes we would be immensely grateful to receive them. We only usually know the side of a person’s life that we see the most and it has become very clear over the last few days that he was known by many, many people with experiences of him that the rest of us don’t know at all. We would love to hear from anyone who knew Colin, or whose life was touched by him – no contribution is too small or too large.

I want to compile as much as we can for the family which survives him: his big sister, Jill (my Mum) and her husband, my sister Liz and my brother Tim as well as our extended family and his many friends across the world. I’d like to store all that information on a memorial website so that everyone can share in those memories and thoughts.

If you have thoughts, stories or condolences that you would like to share please send them electronically to or in real world form to the address below:
c/o Nick Tyler, 77 Windsor Street, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 2BW

Could you please tell us where you know Colin from and whether you want your name and/or email/contact details listed with them, or if you’d prefer not to.

This Week, Monday 14th October 2013

A Blur of Days

wpid-IMG_20131014_180200_Antonio_Aubergine_Femton.jpgIf I thought the weekend before last took forever, this last week has taken at least a month to go past. I can remember days occurring, but not what happened in them. I’m pretty sure I just stared at my computer (no change there then). That odd sensation of being adrift in the time stream where the world just slews around you at a different speed is slowly reducing, which is good because it’s damn creepy. I’m now trying to get my routine back in shape – we were going to bed after one almost every night last week and I can’t keep doing that.

Y’know, I’m trying to write this now and it’s just a blur of non-words and emotional blanks. I really just want to get on with doing something, but it’s been another day of failing to achieve anything at work. That’s getting all too common. The most I feel I can hope to achieve is just to read a book – that seems to go alright, though when I pick it up again the next day I have to skip back a dozen pages to find anything I remember. I guess this is grief.

I went to the funeral director’s with my Mum and step-dad. I’ve never been involved at that stage before and it’s amazing how many things there are to consider, be consulted on, to approve, to debate, to get hysterical over. Obviously there are complications – Colin’s body still being in Inverness for example. I’m glad I’ve been able to offer some support to my Mum – makes it feel more like I’m doing something. After that we went to Colin’s house. He was not a tidy man… I can’t really complain – hoarding is a family curse. I found myself wondering why on earth someone would keep so many old cameras or bicycle inner tubes, before reflecting on how many hang off a nail in my garage, above the rusted frame of my last bike: chilling.

We’ve found at least some of the things we need to find though and with siblings and partners have begun to reveal some floor spaces and see the surfaces of furniture again. It doesn’t feel as personal as I’d expected, but then little of it is really personal possessions – endless letters, magazines, clothes and stuff but it doesn’t tell you much about who Col was – he was a man defined not by the things around him but by what he did. I think that’s good, but he could have used a filing system, for our sakes.


♥ This week’s scribbles
Probably… I got a few things done last week – not necessarily the stuff I wanted to do, but whatever I’d already prepared a little for. I’m struggling to even write this, let alone get on with writing more story chapters (though I want to, I really do). So this week’s going to be even more erratic I’m afraid. I’m not even going to commit to days… Mainly this week I need to write the eulogy for Colin. I’d considered writing from scratch, but I can’t face it. I feel I said much of how I felt last Sunday, so hopefully there’s enough there to adapt. Maybe it was that writing which divorced my mind from body so much, any other words I put down have less worth.

The Desert Crystals – Part 23 “Vanishing Distance” It can be hard to get perspective high above the clouds.

Stuff in the Post: Where’s the Cheese? Another fine Kickstarter project sends out their rewards.

Last week’s scribbles

Thanks For Everything, But He’s Gone – thoughts and memories of my uncle who lost his life in the Scottish Highlands last week

Book Review: Feast and Famine by Adrian Tchaikovsky – an excellent compendium of short stories

Shankchism: The Gash of Angry Poetry – some vitrilioc verse for the week

Colin Barnfather: Condolences and Memorials – funeral, memorial and charity notices for Colin

Updates on my thrilling life


Faint progress again. I decided I needed Lego so I went out and acquired Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Lego. It’s nice stuff, and deceptively complex to build. It filled some of those brainblank moments that otherwise I’d just have stared at the wall during. I can tell I wasn’t really paying attention because I constantly forgot what page of the construction I was on and had to dismantle or figure out what the hell I’d done.

Dismantling older builds was easier and felt more productive…

Improv Comedy

Last week’s Gorilla Burger raised £110 for Colin’s JustGiving page which is really cool. I took part in Parky’s ‘Newsshite’ which was fun though I don’t remember it well. I decided to perform rather than hang back; I think it was a good idea. I did a fun ‘Hey You Down There’ with Max and enjoyed a hyperskeptical police interrogation with Amy. I drank, I laughed.
I was on better form by Saturday night, performing in Lloydie’s birthday party show – a long Armando thing – along with Marilyn. Neither of us were sure we wanted to get up there initially, but it was fun and felt like the right thing to do. We made viable, if disturbing offers and had a bunch of enjoyable scenes.

We’re back with the beginner’s tonight. It was a great thing to do last week and I totally focussed on it and forgot everything else while we were teaching. I liked that. Hopefully I’ll get into the same zone later on. The group are going to be marvellous -once more we have a strange and diverse mix of people. That range of ages, backgrounds and interests makes it fascinating to watch and prod.


Makers by Cory Doctorow was brilliant. It’s carried me through the week quite well. I can’t remember what I’m reading now, but I very much doubt that’s any comment on the (mysterious) author.

Events and Excitement

Friday 25th October 2013

MissImp in Action – live improv comedy show


Thrilling all-action end of the month show sporting the best of MissImp inventing scenes and playing games.

The Glee Club
The Waterfront
Canal Street
8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4.50 in advance/£6 on the door (£3 students/MissImp)


Stuff in the Post: The Monkey and the Mouse: Where’s The Cheese?


I do love getting things in the post, especially stuff I don’t really feel I’ve paid for. Kickstarter gives me that pleasant vibe all the time. Partly it’s because you don’t pay when you sign up to back a project, so it’s already mythical money, and by the time it gets funded and they take your pennies I’ve already forgotten that was going to happen. Oh, and then I forget that I’ve backed it at all until a man hammers on the door and thrusts a parcel into my naked hands.

Local Projects

I spotted this project because a friend shared it on Facebook and I noticed the artist was local – a Mr Kev Brett of Nottingham. I like supporting local activities but I’m lazy so doing it online is marvellous. Kev’s been doing a webcomic for ages called The Monkey and The Mouse and was simply seeking to get it printed and lovely. I like his style of art – for want of a better description it’s very smooth and curly. It looked like a fun little comic and I was happy to back it.

I was hoping to go and meet Kev at Nerdcon in Nottingham this month, but family emergencies kind of took over. A shame; I would have liked a nice scribble in the front and the chance to say “hi”.

I have the cheese


That said I’m thrilled with the rewards – oddly the mug arrived first, in a box on its own with no note or anything. A proper surprise package! Since I’m a man over the age of 30 I already have more mugs than I can ever possibly need in several lifetimes but it’s on the front of the heap so it’s currently my breakfast tea mug. I am happy with its tea holding properties.

Then the comic itself arrived. The cover art is also on the mug and on the A4 card poster that came with the comic. The colours positively glow. The comic itself is a delightfully clean black and white throughout and I found a nice little personalised doodle and note inside. Oh – and badges! We love badges and these are charming buttons which will soon be added to the badge wall before being arbitrarily assigned to a jacket or hat. This weekend is presenting a fine opportunity to sit down and read the comic.

Kickstarter project

[kickstarter url= width=480]

Colin Barnfather – funeral and memorial service Tuesday 22nd October 2013


Funeral and Memorial Services

Colin’s funeral and memorial service will take place on:

Tuesday 22nd October, 11.20 am – 12.20 pm
at Markeaton Crematorium

Markeaton Lane
Derby DE22 4NH
(Google maps link)

We look forwards to seeing and meeting anyone and everyone who may wish to attend the service and the wake which will follow at a nearby venue (details available at the funeral, or feel free to email me for details if you’re unable to make it to the service – (email Nick).

Raising Money in Colin’s Name

I’ve been very touched and delighted by all the people who have chosen to donate to the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team through the page.

I’m very grateful to Fuz, David, Parky, Di, Martin, Carla and Lloydie for their support in setting that up and for being generally quite marvellous. Even further there are a number of improv comedy groups out there who are also collecting donations, which is incredibly sweet (thank you We Are Improv and The Maydays and our home team MissImp).

If you would like to make a donation just follow the link, or if you would prefer to donate by text message just send a message to 70070 containing CBRN59 and the amount you wish to donate in a text message to e.g. ‘CBRN59 £5’. Our funeral directors, Murray’s will also receive and pass on donations.

Memories and Pictures

We would love to get a collection of photographs of Colin from his many and varied walks of life, as well as any memories or anecdotes you would care to share.

Please email anything you may wish to share to or in real world form to the address below:
c/o Nick Tyler, 77 Windsor Street, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 2BW

Awaiting an End

So… Colin’s funeral and memorial service is on Tuesday. I’ve written my eulogy and I think it’s okay. I wrote and read a eulogy for my Nanna’s funeral and I remember it being a peculiar experience. I’m used to performance and saying things in front of lots of people, but that’s usually improvised and I stand by my belief that everything is fine as long as you don’t plan it. Once you’ve written something there is endless possibility for disaster, every word is a raised paving slab and every dot and slash of punctuation an enladdered bucket. There’s a lot of responsibility to say the right thing, and not nervously say anything appalling (genuine risk for me).

I’m slightly calmed by the knowledge that although I’m speaking first, three other people who knew Colin in different aspects of his life will be speaking afterwards. I’m looking forwards to hearing from his colleagues at Rolls Royce and the ATC where he spent so much of his time. Between us we can hopefully come close to encapsulating his life in affectionate and warm words.

It’s a curious event to look forwards to, but I am looking forwards to meeting people who I’ve only exchanged messages with since Colin’s death. It has also been a rather fraught few weeks and I hope Tuesday will help along that sense of closure which it traditionally provides. Perhaps bursting into tears over my script will help…

Related articles

This week, Monday 21st October 2013

The Times They Are A-Changing

BookinFor some reason the classic song by that guy who can’t really sing has been playing in my head quite a lot this week. Bob Dylan, that’s the feller. I’ve no real interest in his music and even that most famous song I only really know from the film adaptation of The Watchmen. There it provides the backing from the incredible opening scenes of the twentieth century with superheroes. It’s exciting and bleak and frightening all at the same time. I can’t hear it without seeing a blue guy blast Vietcong into bones. So I’m not sure why I’ve been hearing it all week. Strange.

I think things are slowly coming back together after Colin’s death. The eulogy has occupied my thoughts (as well as that song) for much of the week, it’s an honour to speak at someone’s funeral but ya wanna get it right, y’know? I can only do things the way that I do them. That’s Tuesday.

Despite all of that I may have achieved a few things at work, finally. Maybe the next few months won’t be absolute hell…


♥ This week’s scribbles

I’m still struggling to pit fingers against keys effectively, which is annoying me no end. It’s like a fog descends over my mind. I’ve had ideas but they evaporate when I try to write them down. I’m not even getting angry, just weary. That said, I did get a flash of scribbling inspiration on Saturday afternoon and so have finally written part 23 of The Desert Crystals! Hurray! I decided not to squeeze it into last weekend and I’ll shove it out into the world next Thursday as I begin to get my scribbles back on schedule.

The Desert Crystals – Part 23 “Vanishing Distance” It can be hard to get perspective high above the clouds.

Film Review Round Up: Prisoners & How We Live Now (2013) A terrible pair of films to watch while a family member is missing.

Last week’s scribbles

Stuff in the Post: The Monkey and The Mouse – Where’s the Cheese? Another fine Kickstarter project sends out their rewards.

Updates on my thrilling life


I’ve been really good at not indulging in Lego retail therapy and I’m unreasonably proud of myself. One of the things I’m looking forwards to in life returning to normal will be some building time. That same brain fug that fucks up writing also makes the bricks into incomprehensible plastic lumps.

I’ve also backed another of Guy Himber’s Kickstarter projects – Skulls. He’s the chap who did the awesome Pigs vs Cows which I still need to make good use of. His new project is delightfully detailed, well – skulls – as you might guess. There’s a mix of skulls with studs on top (to add hats!) and without. I’ve no idea what I want to do with them, but I love that they’re going to exist.

Improv Comedy

I’m very pleased with our new beginners. They are funny and fun. We have a nice number – eight – which means they get to play lots and we get to laugh and offer assistance. On Thursday we played with the ‘Living Room’ format. It’s fun but I’m not sure I’d be interested in watching it unless I knew the participants. One thing I did very much like though was having scenes that were possibly just one or two lines long without there being any pressure to extend them or take it anywhere. That was rather nice.


I’ve had to half re-read the book I was struggling to recall last week because so little had been absorbed by the meat in my skull. It was Neal Asher’s The Engineer: reconditioned – a bunch of novellas from his Polity universe, which I adore. They were all strong and featured his trademark hideous alien creatures with horribly alien behaviour. Of the sci-fi authors I read he seems to have the best grasp of just how alien things can get – everything on Spatterjay (Hooper’s World) for example…

I’ve been spending my otherwise blankly staring lunchtimes by reading more of Atomic Robo‘s fantastic ‘Action Science’ adventures. I know I’m always late to the party but isn’t that what’s wonderful about this era of technology? Right now we have the potential to keep everything forever (or until we destroy the world properly anyway), so we can discover awesome things months and years after they were created. Since I don’t spend my hours browsing Gawker, YouTube and Reddit I am constantly decades behind the thrilling memes that Twitter twatters on about. I’ve not yet regretted that distance.

Events and Excitement

Friday 25th October 2013

MissImp in Action – live improv comedy show


Thrilling all-action end of the month show sporting the best of MissImp inventing scenes and playing games.

The Glee Club
The Waterfront
Canal Street
8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4.50 in advance/£6 on the door (£3 students/MissImp)

Saturday 26th October 2013

Knickerbocker Glorious

Live and free in-street entertainment from Furthest from the Sea‘s finest musicians, spoken word artists and whatever else we can jam on a stage.

The Fountain
Market Place

Thursday 31st October 2013
Cabaret XXXI

An evening of fine food, Prohibition cocktails and roaring Cabaret entertainment

The Lacehouse
Stoney Street

Colin Barnfather 1959-2013 RIP

Today we cremate my beloved uncle and friend Colin Barnfather and celebrate his life and how he has affected those around him.


Related articles

The Desert Crystals – Part 23: Vanishing Distance

Part 23 – Vanishing Distance

Desert Crystals 3Rosenhatch Traverstorm stumbled out of the main hatch and onto the deck of The Dove’s Eye as she slewed wildly to port, almost hurling him to the floor. He barely maintained his firm grip on the biscuit tin he held with both hands.

One of Lord Corshorn’s crew rushed to him, clipped a lifeline to his belt and ran aft without so much as a word. The lifelines radiated out from the lifestem, the iron structure that joined ship to the air-rack to which the canopy was affixed. Between the two hung a series of rings to which the many lifelines were attached, making a hissing rattle as the lives they held ran across the deck. An intricate sequence of catches and sub-rings allowed the ropes to criss-cross without snarling the crew into tight knots.

Rosenhatch ducked under the more tightly wound lines about the edge of the ship where crew were undertaking some activity or other beneath the gondola itself.

He spotted Harvey without trouble, noting that even his enormous friend had been tethered to the deck. The vessel twisted sharply to starboard, this time tossing Rosenhatch off his feet and the tin out of his grasp. Lord Corshorn smartly snapped it out of the air, his feet remaining miraculously in touch with the bucking deck.

“Biscuits Traverstorm? It’s hardly the time for tea.”

“Indeed not, and I’d advise caution when opening it,” Rosenhatch pulled himself up, using Harvey’s shell for support, “I think we’ve found what pressed poor Bublesnatch into madness.”

Corshorn levered up the tin’s lid and recoiled at the sight of the white grub thrashing about in its interior. “Dear lord – from his eyes?”

“Well, one of them anyhow. We’ll need to fashion the lad a patch if he ever regains consciousness. The ghastly things burst out but we contained them all. I’ve no great hopes for his other eye mind, I wondered if you might take a glimpse Harvey.”

Traverstorm took the tin from the captain and popped it open for Harvey. He winced as the giant centipede speared the grub with his foot and brought it mere inches from his mandibles and eyes.

“Intriguing. From his eyes you say?” Harvey took Traverstorm’s nod for agreement and lightly snipped off the grub’s head with his mandibles. Traverstorm and Corshorn both looked away somewhat greener than before.

Harvey ejected the creature’s head neatly onto another of his feet. “Larval, obviously. It would be interesting to see precisely what they become. I trust we still have other specimens?”

“Oh yes, we’ve got at least a dozen of them.”

“Excellent. If you wouldn’t mind preserving a few, and dissecting one I’d be most grateful Rosenhatch.”

“Certainly, as long as all this banging about hasn’t harmed our kit,” he offered a querying eyebrow to the captain,” but I’m rather more concerned about the boy’s other eye.”

“I’m loath to suggest slicing it open, and it’s already taken several washes. I wonder if we might prise it out, with a spoon or similar and see if we can’t cut the eggs off the back. If they are inside the eyeball then there’s not much hope.” Harvey mused.

“Fascinating,” interjected the captain, “and though I share your concern for the boy’s eye you may have noticed we’re in some difficulty up here as well.” He gestured at the darkness which surrounded the airship. “It seems we are not quite where we thought we were.”

“I thought we were mapping the place,” remarked Rosenhatch.

“We were, but that’s become difficult – Harvey?”

“Yes captain. Initially I could sense the various openings and and spaces within this Sky Cliff, but it has all begun to change. The very structure of the place is changing. You recall that central pit we were heading for? Well it’s gone now. I am unable to predict where we are heading for more than a few moments at a time, hence our rather hasty corrections.”

Traverstorm had not previously noticed the silk flags tied to two pairs of Harvey’s legs. During their conversation he had been flicking them, apparently at random, but Traverstorm now dimly perceived them as directions to the crew.

“Ah,” Harvey’s gentle tone belied the stress behind it, “gentlemen I believe that we are trapped.”

As if to emphasise Harvey’s warning a deep groan echoed around them, shortly followed by a shriek from below the airship.

“Haul ’em up lads, do it now!” bellowed Lord Corshorn and immediately a series of pulleys snapped taut the lifelines and reeled in furiously. The crewmen on the other ends appeared suddenly in the light of the airship’s deck as if flying in from the darkness. A couple fell hard to the deck where their mate picked them up, but the more experienced skipped through the air, apparently having run up the ship’s side and landed neatly in the centre of the deck as the pulleys slackened their grip.

“Report,” commanded the captain..

“Sir, we’re being squeezed in. I was hanging off the keel and touched rock with my boots, then it pressed up.” The speaker wiped sweat from her forehead and unconsciously squeezed the lifeline between her fists.

“She’s right,” Harvey added, “this cavern’s growing smaller.”

The ship suddenly lurched again, this time without direction from the centipede.

“Dammit, it’s squeezing the bags. We’ll be crushed by them if can’t get free. I’m open to suggestions.”

Blank and panicked looks were shared by all, except for the crewmember who had come up from below. Her name – Freymald – popped into Traverstorm’s head as she spoke again:

“Fire, sir. I dropped my lantern when I was standing on the cavern, sir. It broke on the rock , and well it sounds strange sir, but it twitched, and pulled back away from me. Like it was alive sir.”

“That sounds exactly as strange as everything else we’ve encountered here. Fire it is.”

Shouts, cries and the usual business of ordering a ship about followed. Harvey untethered himself and dashed aft to retrieve the enormous cannon he had toted earlier when facing the winged beasts. Traverstorm stood, holding the empty biscuit tin until Freymald seized him by the arm.

“You’ll not want to be standing here in about a minute Professor,” she said, hauling him towards the cabins, “the captain’s about to light our way.”

They reached the hatchway and clipped themselves onto the internal lifelines that ran along the inside of the hallways, then leaned out of the doorway to watch.

Harvey re-emerged with the artillery strapped to his shell. Two crewmen anchored him firmly, driving bolts of steel into the wooden deck at four points around him. Another pair of crewmen crouched by the railings at the front of the gondola, hugging canvas sacks to their chests. Harvey’s gun let out an aching roar and it blazed its charges into the darkness. Instead of just disappearing into the abyss, they struck the walls of the cavern almost immediately, lighting up a stretch of grey rock which flinched and writhed in the explosive light. His volley paused for a moment and the crouching crewmen leaped to their feet and off the railings, landing on the volatile rock face beyond. With hammers and pitons they fastened the canvas sacks to the wall and threw themselves back on board.

Harvey gave them a moment to move aside before unleashing another fusillade from his mighty weapon. The canvas sacks detonated immediately, searing the front of the gondola. The scream that followed shook the vessel and her crew to the bone. The whole cavern spasmed around them and the rock face ahead of them fell away. They began to move, lurchingly thrust past the burning wall. The Dove’s Eye bumped and grated as it was forced through the vast Sky Cliff, forced onwards with its flaming prow jabbing at the rocks which folded away to avoid its touch. With a harrowing tearing sound from high above the airship, they burst out into daylight.

Next Week: Part 24 – The Taste of Light

In the same series:

This week, Monday 28th October 2013

So All Back To Normal Then?

FootsWell, no not really. Last week still felt very much as if it was about Colin. Obviously there was the funeral and memorial service on Tuesday which certainly occupied my thoughts for all of the weekend and Monday and Tuesday. I did enjoy the wake in particular though – it was wonderful to see so many people celebrating Colin’s life. It was also nice to see some family members I haven’t seen or spoken to in quite some time; I suppose it’s sad that it takes these events to bring people together.

I haven’t done a whole lot with the rest of the week… well, not in my mind anyway. We’ve seen some films, did a show on Friday, then Knickerbocker Glorious on Saturday and been out for several bouts of drinks. So… I guess we’ve actually done quite a lot!


♥ Scribbles of time and space

*Sigh* life hasn’t quite snapped back to itself yet, so I did fail to do more last week than post the most recent chapter of The Desert Crystals. Maybe it will take slightly longer to get myself back together. I don’t yet know what I’m going to get up to this week…

In Memory: Sadness and Laughter – thoughts on the funeral of my uncle, Colin Barnfather.

The Desert Crystals – Part 24 “The Taste of Light” – freshly escaped from the monsters in the sky, a moment of peace can be hoped for.

Last Week:

The Desert Crystals – Part 23 “Vanishing Distance” It can be hard to get perspective high above the clouds.

Updates on my thrilling life


I feel shame that I haven’t been building… I did acquire the Colby City Showdown at a decent price however while tootling around book and toy shops in Derby on Saturday. I had hoped to build it, but I was exhausted and stared at things on Saturday night until falling asleep… Next weekend!

Improv Comedy

Our improv beginners were marvellous on Monday – they are not only really rather entertaining to observe and assist, but have proven themselves to be legendarily fine distraction of a Monday evening during this rather trying time. Thanks guys!

Last week’s jam was my attempt to impart some love of Shakespearean styles as passed on to me at The Maydays Residential Improv Festival in September. I focussed on getting the feel of iambic pentameter into our heads and mouths. It went well – people said strange and beautiful things.

MissImp in Action! We’re still experimenting with a mixed show format and personally I’m getting a lot out of it. It’s reignited a pleasant sensation of excitement and anticipation with not quite knowing how it will go. This month Parky led us into an initial half hour of shortform games (I only played a splendid Should Have Sung with Parky about running a human hair emporium, y’know, for cloning and such) followed by Newsshite which offered opportunities for German soldiers, hellish imps, French film voiceover and much more. We need to tighten it up a bit but I’m digging the variety. The second half started with my beloved Unspeakable Acts – the audience selected Pretty Woman for us to abuse. And we did… pipe smoking financiers, magicians and a prostitute with a prosthetic leg with spring-loaded toes. Enormous fun. We finished with a round of short form games and an evil, impossible Party Quirks that utterly blew my mind.

I was very conscious afterwards that Colin wasn’t there, which made me feel very sad. I felt it was a really strong show for me and I’d have loved for him to see it. I can take some comfort in how much he enjoyed our ludicrous version of Jaws a few months ago.

Events and Excitement

Monday 28th October

Mayhem Improv Monday – The Show

Mayhem Monday

A brand new show featuring a mix of shortform and longform sketches from Nottingham’s up and coming improv talent.

The Corner
8 Stoney Street
(off Broad Street)

8.00pm – FREE

Thursday 31st October 2013

Cabaret XXXI

An evening of fine food, Prohibition cocktails and roaring Cabaret entertainment

The Lacehouse
Stoney Street

In Memory: Sadness and Laughter

Funeral Review?

Colin Barnfather_2Well, the funeral and memorial service for my uncle, Colin Barnfather went well last week. It’s a strange thing to say, but I think it was the best funeral I’ve been to… (not just me; several other people said so too). It was certainly the longest. I’ve been fortunate to have had few causes to attend funerals, and this was the second one at which I’ve spoken. We had a double slot (about an hour) which have plenty of opportunity for people to share their recollections of Colin. As we arrived the ATC 126th had arranged an honour guard who stood waiting for the arrival of Colin’s body and family. That in itself was a touching tribute to how much influence Col had on the lives of others. It was also the first hint at the depth and complexity of the man.

We entered to the strains of the Star Trek theme, as arranged by Michael Giacchino (the end credits from the remake). It is a peculiarly moving piece of music, and I suspect will be ever more so for me now. It did raise a grin to my face, which is pleasingly incongruous for a funeral. The room was rammed. I was pleasantly surprised – I’d had a horrible notion that the room would be empty, but there was no chance of that, with people standing all the way around as the chairs were all taken.


Our humanist celebrant, Martin Fowkes gave a simple but moving introduction for Colin and led us through the various speakers and into the committal. Personally I’m grateful for his warm and sensitive facilitation of the service. I’ve been to some religious services and I find their focus on myth rather than the person who has died to be quite offensive. This felt like a true celebration of Colin’s life with tributes from all parts of his life.


First we heard from the Chaplain of 126 (Derby) Squadron ATC, Amanda who spoke about how Colin had been involved in the ATC since he was thirteen! I hadn’t realised, or acknowledged I suppose, quite the level of importance that the cadets played in his life. Countless anecdotes and thoughts and actions of Colin’s made me smile throughout. The next tribute was from Iain at Rolls Royce where Colin worked for, well I can’t remember how long (many details are a blur from the morning) which again was touching, recognisable and affectionate. Iain spoke of his dedication, knowledge and integrity in a way that made me feel very proud of my uncle. The tribute that moved me most was that by his best friend, Richard. More than any of the others, Richard’s words told of a man who was a wonderful friend, godfather to his children and a constant companion and part of his life; I feel Richard’s loss very strongly.

My Tribute

I spoke on behalf of our closest family, but mainly for myself. In eulogy more than anything I else I realise that I’m always writing about me, and in this case how Colin affected my life, and my life with my other half. I also wanted to tell the story of what happened to Colin in Scotland and the narrative that I felt just needed words to be pinned to it. It’s a sad story, but only because it ends sadly for Colin. The impact he’s had on everyone else will continue to be felt for the rest of our lives.

If you would like to read my tribute to my uncle you can read it here: Colin’s Eulogy.

What I really loved was that all the tributes were funny; I find that humour punctuates sadness so much more effectively than anything else. Tears and laughter are found in all parts of our lives, and I’ve found that for me tears don’t come easily and rarely come with grief; I was content to smile and feel grins aching up through my chest and throat.  Colin will remain in my mind a funny person, with countless odd habits and admirable qualities, the sum of which made him a most remarkable man. The music Mum chose for exiting Markeaton Crematorium was the cricket test match theme – an infuriatingly cheerful slice of music actually called Soul Limbo which seems apt. Again, it was the presence and attentiveness of the cadet honour guard with their flags and poise to me spoke eloquently with respect and affection.

Outside was oddly hilarious to me – you get led out into a little concrete area where they lay the wreaths and other floral tributes. It’s really weird – only family really go in there and everyone else mills about outside. It’s like being in a cage. It was nice to see the floral tribute for Col – we had found a nice old pair of leather walking boots in his house and they had been filled with heather and other highlands-like flowers. Really pretty. I was very grateful to the rest of our family and our friends.

Then we went to the pub… not quite like that, but a lot of people did come back for drinks and refreshments and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk to people I have only recently known through the stressful period while Colin was missing. Everyone told me something about him that made me laugh and deepen my understanding of a man I can no longer get to know better myself.


I’m delighted to report that our campaign to raise funds for Lochaber Mountain Rescue has now achieved over £1000 of donations:

Slightly Broken: Getting a Good Bad Night’s Sleep

It Cannot Be Morning Already

And yet it is; the horror. I’ve been sleeping weirdly for the last month I think. It’s a combination of lots of things. It certainly started when Colin went missing and the general increase in stress and anxiety that followed was naturally accompanied by ‘variation’ of my evening routines, so that I was drinking in the evenings in addition to my usual dose of amitriptyline (damn that word, it never looks right). I know full well that will mess me up, but it definitely makes me extra sleepy and I was grateful for that, since for one reason or another we struggled to go to bed before 1 am.

The consequences of that roll through the next day… it’s considerably harder for me to get up and go on alcohol + sleeping tablets, so my mornings crash and burn into a slurred lethargy and I’m knackered by the time evening spreads its dark wings over me. It cheerfully reawakened the ‘second wind’ phenomenon of waking up again in the evening. That pushes the time I get round to taking sleeping tablets back further and encourages a glass of whiskey or beer to start the relaxation ball off again. So it’s an obvious vicious circle that is surprisingly hard to get out of again.

I’m slowly pulling out of that circuit, though I must admit that we’ve retained our usual fairly busy lives which also conspire to prevent the earliness of sleep. I need to vigorously reinforce my routine of Ami at 7.30pm, all electronika (minus Kindle) off at ten and be in bed at eleven. It will help, I just need to make it happen. This morning is sufficient evidence – although my eyes feel sticky I did haul my corpse out of bed at 7.40am and have bumbled through breakfast and am now able to scribble here. I haven’t managed to write in the morning for at least a month. It’s good, though I’ve got a cracking headache coming on. Hurrah.

Ding Dong, Summer Is Dead

The clocks went back at the weekend (which already feels like weeks ago, so I guess I’m still suffering from time dilation) which is the only way round I ever enjoy our ludicrous practice of pretending it’s an hour earlier or later to briefly and ineffectually see slightly more sun in the morning. Personally I’m baffled by the whole British Summer Time affair. I’m certain that we spend more time changing the times on our clocks than could possibly compensate for ‘gaining’ an hour. If you want to see more sunshine – start getting up earlier. Would it really be so hard to just do things earlier? Who the fuck is being successfully tricked into thinking they’ve actually got an ‘extra’ hour? Every year this makes me angry. It’s certainly confused our cat, who now begins bouncing around with daintily clumsy paws at about half past six. That really helps…

It’s All In My Head, Man….

I’ve also been dreaming vividly again. I used to dream very intensely in my late teens and mid-twenties with frequent lucid components and regularly recalling three or four of the dreams each night. It’s fun and interesting to dream like that, but again, I’d wake up exhausted having spent the night running away from zombies or battling fish in space. Maybe it’s related to the change of season, coupled with the abuses of my routine. Normally in summer I’m bitterly resentfully woken early by the cursed rising sun, but this year the wondrous Ami has kept that at bay and I haven’t been disturbed at all. So why would the decline of sun in the morning make a difference? I’ve no idea. These are morning word babblings, don’t blame me if they don’t make sense.

I realised as I woke up this morning from the sea of sleep that I’ve been having the same dream for days, if not longer. They slip and slide from my view when I wake up (as well they ought, the distracting bloody things), but being woken several times by a cat slipping and snortle-purring into my face allowed me to rise briefly from the dream before returning to its deeps. It’s a simple dream of death – always cheery.

In the dream I am hugely anxious and distressed about the killings that have taken place – there are five bodies of young people buried within ten yards of each other in an area of common land bound by tall brick walls and the terraces that vanish off on either side. There’s a path that leads through the common, with crumbled brick edges that passes a large pond of grim grimy green water and the remains of a Japanese water garden. I’ve witnessed three of the murders personally, being the person murdered each time. I am aware that there are more deaths because once dismembered and in the earth, damp from the pond water and wrapped in a sheet, I can see one other shrouded body through the mud.

The fifth body I know about because I am playing most of the roles in the dream and switch perspective as required – the fifth we find and disinter beyond the right wall, below a tatty clothes line that holds only pegs and the ghosts of clothes. The graves are shallow and callously hewn for these brutalised bodies (my brutalised bodies), and though there is no recollection as the person who uncovers them that we are the same person, nonetheless a miasma of horror and fear permeates all the perspectives. We return to the discovery of the bodies over and over again, focussing on the child who lies weeping in death, the one who retains a violent shuddering and the empty eye sockets of the third.

Eventually we come to suspects and watching for the deaths, so I suppose we’re going backwards. Despite that, the murders have happened and the murderer, rather than the potential murderer is sought. He becomes less of a murderer as we go on. I knew who the murderer would be, I think, right through the dream. Focussing on the deaths and the discoveries just hid that away for the longest time, but finally he’s there, seen through the clouds of dust and fog that blanket the common land, appearing from over the brick walls. A dark ghost; the only character not played by me; the only character I’d never wish to, never to seek to play. And he kills them again.

This time though, there are witnesses – we expected him. Though the children die again, they leave clues to mark their passing. A scrap of paper, a wad of chewing gum. The bodies are found sooner. Perhaps this time we’ll catch him. But then we wake up.